For the second year in a row, GoPetFriendly.com and Will My Dog Hate Me have issued a challenge to pet bloggers. They created a series of questions centred around the topic of blogging and all the craziness that follows. I participated last year and enjoyed the opportunity to think deeper about what it is I am trying to produce with this space. Twelve months later, I still don’t really know. I hope you’ll indulge me as I try to figure it all out once more. If you feel so inclined, I also hope you will join in!
I have always been a little long-winded. One of my favourite university professors even wrote those exact words on one of my papers. He didn’t mean it as a compliment but I showed it off with pride. Blogging allows me to ramble as much as I please without dealing with red ink all over my page. If I want, I can say the same thing over and over again and no one can stop me. I can revel in the superfluous! (Kinda like I just did there. Mwahahahaha!) I’ve always enjoyed the process of writing; it was the discipline I lacked. As a child I would love coming up with new stories to tell but by the fourth or fifth page I would lose interest and move onto something else. For years, it was the same with blogging. I would create a new website, come up with a fun title, type a few posts about what I ate for lunch, and then never log-in again.
But then I got this dog and all that changed.
Blogging has been a lot of things for me in the last two years. It has been a release, it has been a chore, it has been a source of immense support. One of the biggest goals I set for myself in the previous challenge was to find a way to give back to a community that welcomed me instantly without even knowing my background. I could be an art thief with pink hair and a horrible taste in shoes. I could wear tights as pants every day. The pet blogging community wouldn’t care. It was a stunning thing to me. Still is. Much to my chagrin, I don’t think I have achieved this goal. Thanking people for their kindness just isn’t enough. Here is what I wrote last year and I still feel this today, maybe even more so:
This community is filled with the best kind of people in the world. People who care about others, people who make sacrifices, people who will take five minutes to stop and impart a kind word, people who realise that such kind words matter. This is a place I am so grateful to have found and I want to deserve the honour. There has to be a brilliant way to acknowledge the silliness, the preciousness, the awesomeness, the stark genius, of this entire community.
I am still determined to figure this out. Even if I have to keep plugging away on here for the rest of my life.
The other goals I had were petty in comparison. I wanted to start self-hosting. Check! I wanted to create a unique design. Check! I wanted to better utilize social media. Check-ish: time-sucking Facebook continues to evade my prowess. It does feel pretty cool to look back at the things I have accomplished, no matter how small. I even figured out, all by myself, how to add my own nifty social media buttons to my sidebar. Is it silly to be so proud of something others could do without taking a breath? Oh well, I’m going to brag about it anyway!
These days I blog on a pretty strict schedule. Every morning after walking the dog, I pour myself a cup of coffee and try to post something remotely interesting. Some days the words come easier than others. I do find this routine helps. Often, even if I don’t have any particular ideas, the act of sitting in my favourite corner of the sofa, Shiva’s warmth at my side, will inspire my thoughts. There are times I blog apart from this routine, such as the rare times I post on weekends, but that’s pretty much it. I am sitting in that exact spot right now, in fact, morning news on the television in front of me, mind on the Interwebs and the puppy beside me.
Traffic and site stats and all such insidious things did distract me a little this year, I have to admit. I have always maintained that I don’t blog for comments just as I don’t practice agility for ribbons. While that is still very much true, I did find myself clicking on the “stats” link a little more than was healthy. It helps that I have no time to figure out the intricacies of Google Analytics. Mid-summer, I was forced to delete my site stats when the WordPress plugin caused damage to my sidebar. (Why do good plugins go insane? Why?) With no way to see the numbers in front of me, I stopped worrying about it. It was probably the best thing that could have happened to an over-thinking brain like mine. If I can’t see it, I can’t stress over it. Done.
Of course, if I am not generating the traffic, there is no chance for me to generate income either. I am still kind of ambivalent about this anyway. I’ve had advertisements up and then a few days later I’ve taken them down. Blogging for money is not an easy thing to do. From what I have seen, it is pretty rare for a person to make a career out of posting pictures of their dog on the Internet. (Dang.) I am not saying it doesn’t happen, but it probably takes more time and dedication than I have. A little bit extra here and there would be nice, yet I am not sure the work involved is worth the few extra cents. Right now I am definitely interested – working in the nonprofit industry for as long as I have will keep your mind very open to financial opportunities! – though not at all committed. (If you have any tips, I’d love to hear them!)
Ultimately, my feelings about blogging have not changed. I do go through periods where I question if I am just wasting my time. Taking the website thing a lot more seriously has put a strain on my other activities. I don’t read books as much as I used to, for one, and I don’t spend as much time emailing family and friends. It bothers me that I haven’t been able to achieve a balance, especially in regards to the latter. By the end of 2011, I felt overwhelmed by all the demands on my time. A re-prioritzation might be in order. There are never going to be more than 24 hours in a day. No magical girl is going to float down, glowing pink wand in hand, to grant me just five more minutes. I need to learn how to make the most of spare seconds I do have and spend them in a way I won’t regret. That’s going to be my biggest challenge. If the blog suffers for it, I may just have to suck it up.
All that being said, I do still love it. I love sharing stories about my crazy dog and I love feeling like a part of something. Even if it’s something my former self would have mocked relentlessly. I am also excited at the prospect of maybe, finally, eventually meeting some of you in person this year. Maybe. If I can stop myself from running away and hiding. The excitement is definitely scented with nervousness!
If this goes anywhere this year, if I do start attempting to make money or if my dog gets her chance at super-stardom, I hope the website never loses the essence it had when we began. At its core, this blog is about my dog and I and our struggles to connect. It’s about celebrating a relationship that is so often taken for granted or abused. If nothing else, I think to think it serves as a tribute to my dog and to myself, with all our flaws and foibles. If no one ever reads it again, not even my mother – who actually has never once read my blog – I hope I keep doing this dorky, crazy, silly, wonderful thing.
And I hope you do too.
Thanks to you all for your incredible support and encouragement! While I am not surprised Shiva has so many fans, I am constantly stunned by your kindness. If you have the time, I hope you participate in this challenge as well. I’d love to read what you have discovered about yourself in this last year of blogging!